Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 27 2010

On street photography

People can be very possessive of their right and ability to define themselves, to be the sole arbiter of the world’s official view of them as a person, a view more desperately clung to the more insecure that person is and one more in danger of violation since the advent of ubiquitous social networking on the Internet.

Many people are confident enough in their appearance and the contexts of their lives to withstand such a challenge, but many more may not be so willing to see their image. We go through our lives not seeing ourselves as we are. Aside from the occasional mirror, we don’t even feature in our own world view; out of sight is out of mind, and our own appearance, once set in the morning before we leave the house, is simply not on the radar for many people. This isn’t a concern for some, but others may be, consciously or subconsciously, aware that they aren’t quite the person they want to be seen as, even perhaps obsessing over this gap in reality. The self they see in their minds is different from the self that others see, and since they don’t see themselves, the mind-self, the “residual self image” that Morpheus mentions in The Matrix where everyone looks cooler in their minds than in reality, takes precedence. For some people, this is the only way they get through the day, through their lives.

Even the most insecure of people cannot present the perfect outward appearance they seek to project all the time, however, so when you or I come by with a camera and just, without any warning, redefine them by our own criteria, seemingly merely by their happenstance appearance at the time, setting it in stone with concrete photographic evidence, it could seem like we did infringe upon something deeply held and personal. Suddenly, their real appearance bursts into reality in a way no accidentally caught glimpse in a reflective surface could, for this is a mirror that everyone is looking at. A video image may not show the sordid details, lost in a blur of movement, but an image won’t fail in this respect. And unlike a video, an image won’t end, letting us go back to our carefully modeled perceptions.

posted by Poagao at 11:23 am  


  1. Very well stated. Street photography is realm I am attempting to enter. I have a lot of feelings, questions and ambiguity about the right of a photographer to get into someone’s face and snap a pic. But that’s kinda the main parameter of the kind of street photography I’m most interested in. I mean if one asks permission to take a photograph the “decisive moment” is lost.

    Comment by Russ McClay — June 27, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Perhaps you should explore your reasons for doing it, what attracts you to it. It seems that many, if not most photographers are moving in this direction, from abstract landscapes, studio shots and still life shots to “street” photography (which as I’ve mentioned elsewhere is a bit of a misnomer), but aside from just trying something different, what is the attraction to you? Inspiration from seeing others’ work? Social commentary? More involvement with your surroundings? Or less?

    Comment by Poagao — June 27, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

  3. I had to come back a couple of times to get the gist of it, but the idea that we or others maintain a street facebook is interesting. Usually it’s the more insecure or obsessive among us who crave to be photographed. They cannot help but want the validation.

    Have you seen apps like sekai camera? Eventually we’ll all be able to tag ourselves.

    Comment by persimmonous — July 5, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  4. I think that taps into the gambling impulse, the chance of not just coming out looking like we envision ourselves, but even better, even if it only happens once in a while. Then again, I’m no psychologist; I’m just wondering out loud.

    I just downloaded the Sekai app; not really familiar with it yet.

    Comment by Poagao — July 6, 2010 @ 12:23 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment